Opinion: This year’s Thirty Under 30 was too politicised

Opinion: This year’s Thirty Under 30 was too politicised

Hannah Sharron and Natacha Woodcock say this year's search for British Jewry's future was too political

The top 10 of Thirty Under 30
The top 10 of Thirty Under 30

Our community does a great job of nurturing and developing young talent. Indeed, the future of our community relies on exceptional individuals rising through the ranks to be at the helm of British Jewry for the next generation.

But this year’s Jewish News-Jewish Leadership Council ‘Thirty Under 30’ did not do what it set out to do.

We were told that ‘Thirty Under 30’ would recognise ‘individuals set to define Anglo-Jewry in the decades to come’, not simplistically pick the most senior person under 30 in each of our community organisations, whether for-profit or not-for-profit.

Clearly, the political game took over.

It is way too good to be true that the list of 30 key individuals organically includes fair and equal representation to all genders, religious and political affiliations, and areas of work or influence. Evidently the panel who composed this list did so with rigid criteria and tick boxes, ensuring that all these facets were equally represented – but recognizing the rising stars of our community is not a tick box exercise. Reducing it to this level is dangerous because it restricts us, and it forces us to miss a key opportunity.

Hannah Sharron and Natacha Woodcock both of the Union of Jewish Students
Hannah Sharron and Natacha Woodcock both of the Union of Jewish Students

Had we been honest with ourselves, and not simply played a political game to keep everyone satisfied, this could have been an excellent learning opportunity.

Highlighting a genuine, unpoliticised ’Thirty Under 30’ would have demanded that we take notice of any underrepresented denominations, be it gender, political or religious affiliation.

We could then have reassessed our efforts to attract, engage and nurture future changemakers in these areas accordingly. Instead, we are stuck in political games that benefit nobody.

Additionally, constructing the list with community politics in mind seems to have blinded some of the panel to the strengths of those who are defining the future of Anglo Jewry by their background work.

So many people serve as powerful influencers and backbones to those who have been mentioned.

Why are these people not considered deserving just because their names are not regularly pasted all over the headlines?

The ‘individuals that define Anglo Jewry’ are more than just the figureheads at each of our organisations.

We are currently fixated on those that give the speeches – not the speechwriters; on those that address national and international leaders – not those that brief them, and on those that are seen to be changing the political landscape – not the machines that influence these changes and then make them happen.

Instead of highlighting a broad range of contributors and changemakers, including the always visible and the usually invisible, somehow the same people gained an additional trophy to add to their cabinet. These people work with entire teams who dedicate incredible amounts of time and provide invaluable vision and direction; it is unacceptable that just because they lack senior titles, these individuals miss out on the honour of communal recognition and appreciation for what they do for us all.

We need to change the way we talk about our future because it does not depend on the leaders alone.

The actors on stage are of equal importance to the crew that put them there, and it is long overdue that we give equal credence to those behind the scenes.

These people may be happy to spend most of their time offstage, but wouldn’t it have been nice for us to give them credit for what they enable the most visible people to do?

We cannot play political games when it comes to applauding those without whom our community could not survive, and when we recognise dedicated young talent, we cannot afford to look only surface-deep. And we must look deeper, because if we do not acknowledge our debt to the wider pool of talent that we are blessed with, we may find ourselves without anyone willing to fulfil the hidden roles in the future.

This isn’t about pleading for recognition. It’s about acknowledging that game changers are not just those at the front, and the community must change its attitude on this before it is too late.

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